Russia and Ukraine Make Major Prisoner Swap

( – Hundreds of Ukrainian and Russian POWs are now home after one of the largest prisoner swaps between the two countries in recent months. In a diplomatic breakthrough facilitated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), negotiations over the past few weeks culminated in both sides releasing captives on January 3. The exchange marks the largest of its kind seen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy celebrated the event in a video address. “Today… there is long-awaited good news,” he said. “We managed to free over 200 of our people from Russian captivity.”

Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets reportedly confirmed that Ukraine received 230 soldiers and at least six civilians as a part of the deal. While the specifics remain unclear, reports suggest that some of these individuals had been in captivity since early 2022.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence confirmed that it received 248 soldiers in the swap. The MoD stated it would provide the returning servicemen with immediate medical and psychological support as well as rehabilitation services. However, the ministry did not specify how many soldiers required such care or disclose whether any had fallen ill or sustained injuries while detained by Ukrainian forces.

Russia’s MoD also released a video on Telegram showing soldiers climbing onto a bus to head home and, later, disembarking in Belgorod. One man, excited that he would be on home soil in under five hours, cheerfully noted that it was “going to be a joy.”

The massive exchange of prisoners marks a rare instance of cooperation amidst the ongoing conflict between the two countries. Russia and Ukraine remain at loggerheads over much of the territory along their shared border, and the fighting shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. In fact, Russia claims it repelled two separate retaliatory missile attacks in Belgorod and Sevastopol shortly after the swap. Ukraine’s military leaders have yet to claim responsibility.

The UAE’s balanced diplomatic ties with both Russia and Ukraine make it an ideal facilitator for this prisoner exchange and future negotiations. In many cases, it has been able to intercede in ways that leaders from other countries could not. The Emirates continue to push for peace between the two countries but has yet to negotiate a full resolution to the crisis.

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